WEDNESDAY 02 JANUARY 2013 ___________ A HOLIDAY IN VIETNAM BEGINS
A holiday in Vietnam begins...
Following five days of feasting, and of cooking Christmas lunch and many post-Christmas lunches and dinners with Maman Blanc, I left with a huge smile on my face – and a very expanded waist. Nothing is perfect. We said our farewells, sealed with hundreds of kisses and New Year good wishes from Maman.
Then we drove to Paris. Or, rather, my sons drove to Paris. With me lording it over the car, choosing the music, and occasionally making some observations on my sons’ driving. I must admit they are both better drivers than I am. You never hear the sound of terror when one of them is at the wheel, whereas I often hear screams when I drive.
We safely arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport. My son Olivier joined me to fly to Vietnam, while Sebastien had to go back to England, as he is working on a new theatre project.
The food was not very good in business class, so we didn't eat anything at all. But after Maman Blanc’s force-feeding that was just fine. After a year with no break for me, Vietnam is the perfect place to rest catch up with sleep, embrace a different rhythm, and learn how to breathe more slowly, to slow down in general. And I did. So much so that for the first two days, I slept like a hibernating marmot.
We are staying in a typical luxury hotel resort: The Nam Hai. Built from the local grey stones, on the top of the hill, the reception offers the drama of a succession of vast swimming pools cascading down the hill, with palm trees creating the perspective, and all the restaurants and villas scattered around hidden within the luxuriant vegetation. To complete the drama or the landscape, well below you see the white crest of huge waves rolling, then dying gently onto the finest crystalline white sand. Our villa is right on the sea-front, 50 metres from the spectacle of the South China Sea.
Ten miles down the road lies the huge, old city of Danang, but with a gigantic newly built commercial and business centre sprawling across miles. The contemporary and the ancient mix ungracefully. But it is a new beginning for Vietnam, whose economy is growing at an annual six percent. I have been here a few times, and I have seen the huge difference, as a place of total poverty has been transformed into a more dynamic, entrepreneurial country. There is a feeling of hope. As you pass by, you see it all: the new buildings, and the old shacks, whose roofs are loaded with sand bags so the tiles do not fly away; the dirt, all the coloured plastic that litters the roadsides, and the mad geometry of the new developments.
And what a joy to taste the first flavours of Vietnam: lemon grass, galangal and Nuoc mam!
More from me soon.
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